Oscar Klefbom will be out for the season because of an undisclosed injury, and the Edmonton Oilers’ No. 1 defenseman is aiming to return fully healthy in time for 2021-22.
There are no specifics regarding Klefbom’s injury, but the 27-year-old has a history of shoulder issues.
“If we wouldn’t have Oscar, it’s a significant blow, and I don’t have any real answers on that right now,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland said Oct. 1.
Klefbom missed nine games with a shoulder injury sustained against the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 16. He returned March 7 and played three regular-season games before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
He scored 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 62 regular-season games and had two assists in four games in the Oilers’ loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
He missed 21 games in 2018-19 with a broken hand, and shoulder problems caused him to miss 16 games in 2017-18. He was shut down early that season because of shoulder surgery in March 2018.
Klefbom averaged 25:25 of ice time per game last season, tied with Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks for fifth among NHL defensemen. Replacing those minutes will be difficult for Edmonton.
“He means so much to this team, each and every night he comes out and he makes an impact on this game,” Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse said when Klefbom was injured in February.
Edmonton likely will rely on Tyson Barrie to help fill the void, after the 29-year-old defenseman agreed to a one-year, $3.75 million contract Oct. 10.
Barrie has scored 346 points (80 goals, 266 assists) in 554 regular-season games with the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs, including 129 points (21 goals, 108 assists) on the power play, and 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 26 playoff games.
There are young defensemen in the Oilers system who may have to step up this season. Evan Bouchard, 21, was the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Edmonton chose Philip Broberg, 19, at No. 8 in the 2019 NHL Draft. Caleb Jones, 23, has played 60 NHL games the past two seasons and shown signs he is ready for full-time NHL duty. William Lagesson, 24, who played eight NHL games last season, and Dmitri Samorukov, 21, are other possibilities.
“Long term, it’s a good thing we’ve got Broberg, Bouchard, Lagesson, Samorukov, [Ethan Bear], Caleb Jones and Darnell Nurse,” Holland said in October. “Long term, some of those people can grow into it. Short term, it could be a significant blow.”
Holland said Monday that forward Gaetan Haas will miss the start of training camp after being a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case in Switzerland earlier this month, pushing back his travel timeline.